On a warm Sunday morning, I went early to church and found a comfortable place under a fan. To my discomfiture, a large white stray dog entered the pew in front of me and after sniffing around, curled himself up comfortably for a nap. Then I thought – This is also a creature of God. Why can’t we coexist amicably in the house of the Lord?

As the church filled up, a young couple were about to enter the pew when they spied the animal and shied away to a seat on the opposite side. Next came a close-cropped toughie. He entered the pew and gave the dog a vicious kick. The dog squealed in pain, shifted a foot away and curled up again. Having secured a place, the man took no further objection to his canine neighbour.

A man carrying a bulging plastic bag brushed past me into my pew. He began to whack the dog repeatedly with the bag. The dog yelped under the onslaught. I shifted backwards and the animal fled past me into the aisle. Instead of turning towards the exit, the mutt moved up the aisle looking for a new parking place.

The choir sang the psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd…fresh and green are the pastures where he gives me repose” The dog seemed to swing its hips rhythmically, as it searched for that promised place of repose.

“You are there with your crook and your staff, with these you give me comfort,” sang the choir. At this point, there was a note of discordance. An irate senior citizen raised his walking stick threateningly. The dog shifted beat from a slow waltz to a quick step and skipped out of reach.

As it neared the priest, I wondered what would happen. But the celebrant sat unmoved, chin buried in this chest, perhaps contemplating his impending sermon. The dog moved out of sight and peace reigned. Perhaps he had found that promised place of repose in the womb of the sanctuary.

– Ashley Nazareth